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Best of The Biz

by Craig Gustafson; photos by Kelsey Houle

Vibrancy, vitality on display at Excellence Awards Gala.

The 2012 edition of MMPA’s annual Excellence Awards hit the newsstands last Thursday evening, November 1, lauding the leaders of change in the industry, while celebrating accomplishment in the traditional craftsmanship and elegance that lies at the core of the medium. 

“We’re still here” transformed over the past year from sentiment of stunned acknowledgement to a statement of calculated determination. The evening reflected this transformation as industry leaders such as Hedley Donovan Award recipient, Steve Hedlund, were honored for developing their enterprises into multi-channel brands capable of growing and thriving with technology.

In an unexpected twist, two honorees received Innovator Awards: Rat Rod magazine for its driven efforts to engage and captivate its audience, and Quad Graphics—the first vendor ever to earn an Innovator Award—for envisioning new tools to convert core print content into audience engagement over a variety of channels.

Surrounded by the historic setting of Nicollet Island Pavilion, the din of the anxious crowd echoed amongst the festive display of colored lights and delectable morsels that greeted attendees. The first award of the evening was presented to designer Todd Sauers of Pheasants Forever, who submitted the winning Design Competition entry, used in promoting the gala. As emcees John Hanson and Elizabeth Ries, co-hosts of KSTP’s Twin Cities Live, began to announce the nearly 300 awards, the crowd turned its attention to the first gold award of the evening, claimed by first-time entrant, American Craft (American Craft Council).

As Hanson and Ries fell into a rhythm, the awards flew off the stage, treating the assembled professionals to a dizzying display of beauty and craft on the screens that bookended the podium. Despite the pace of the presentation, adulation for the top producers in each category barely waned, leading Hanson to challenge the enthusiasm of Hervey Evans (Erasmus, Inc.) in a clap-off of considerable applauding skills.

As the piles of plaques on the stage dwindled, tension in the room grew with attendees anticipating the announcement of the highly coveted general-excellence awards and the evening’s crown jewel, Magazine of the Year (MOY).

Travis Stanton, editor of the 2011 MOY, EXHHIBITOR, reluctantly took the stage to relinquish the title, while the spectators and hopeful finalists, alike, fell silent. With a quick-witted quip, offering to carry the torch for another year if the designated winner was for some reason unable to fulfill its responsibilities as MOY, he anointed Twin Cities Business with the 2012 title.

A complete list of the evenings awards are available for download at

Contact Kelsey Houle

Overall Excellence Gold

Over 30,000: St. Olaf Magazine
Under 30,000: American Craft

Over 30,000: Twin Cities Business
Under 30,000: Meetings: Minnesota's Hospitality Journal

General Interest
Over 60,000: Mpls.St.Paul Magazine
Under 60,000: Architecture Minnesota

Special Interest

Over 60,000: Minnesota Conservation Volunteer
Under 60,000: Midwest Home